While school celebrations and traditions have changed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of keeping young readers motivated has not.
Read Across America Day, which will be celebrated on Tuesday, March 2, offers boundless opportunities for educators to use books and stories to help their students understand this most unusual year — and to help them discover a wide world of literature that is rich in ethnic and cultural diversity.
The NEA’s Read Across America resources offer suggestions for engaging students, virtually and in person, with an emphasis on books by ethnically diverse authors that open young minds to a world beyond their own.
Here are some possibilities for this year:
Read aloud. Reading aloud with students looks a little different in an online classroom, but it is still an excellent way to connect with and engage students. You can read to your students “live” or create a video of yourself reading. Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips. For example, with Zoom you can screen-share an e-book so that students can see the pictures and words, but they can still see and hear you reading in a thumbnail video. Recorded or live, your read-aloud can be lively. Try some fun backdrops, props or costumes. You can even have a pet join the sessions. Many publishers have extended permissions for read-alouds and recordings of their titles.
Guest readers. Having guest readers share books with students is a great activity at any time of the year. Add new faces to your virtual classroom by offering opportunities to parents and other community members to sign up to read aloud with students.
Mystery readers. Often, mystery readers are special guests who appear — after a mysterious buildup — to read aloud to students. Mystery readers can be parents, grandparents, older siblings, school staff or other members of the community. Schedule a virtual mystery reader guest during synchronous time — or record a video of your guest to share with the class. Build up suspense by asking your mystery readers to offer some clues about themselves and share them with students in the days leading up to the appearance. Get your students engaged in the guesswork.
Host an author. Deepen student enthusiasm for reading and writing with a virtual author visit. Many authors and illustrators are offering opportunities for virtual visits with students. These can be 15- to 30-minute interactive sessions or up to an hour for longer discussions or activities. Author visits go best when students have read their books in advance and have prepared questions. Most authors can be contacted via their websites, through social media or through the publisher.
Book talks. A book talk is just a short presentation about a book to get readers excited and interested in it. You can record yourself, give a live book talk or ask your school or public librarian to offer virtual book talks. You can also have students volunteer for book talks. That way, students learn what their fellow students enjoy reading. Book talks work best when they can be conversational, with questions asked and answered. Slides can be developed and used to add visual interest and help provide structure.
Slide parties. A slide party happens when students prepare a presentation on a topic of their choice and share it with others on a video-chat platform. Slides can be about a lot of things. Students can create slides to introduce themselves, share interests, make a comic book or talk about a favorite book, series or character in detail.